Under review: Dublin’s cycling network

Dublin has a 20-25% target level for cycling, however few people expect this to be reached without changes on and off road.

“For years local authorities have had aspirational networks on their development plans – we want to work with them to move from aspirational to reality and to make that reality a prioritised one,” says Michael Aherne at the National Transport Authority

The NTA is to appoint consultations to report back this year. “It’s really important to get it right,” says Aherne.

“If we are going to expect a massive increase in cycling, there has to be an increase in the offer for cycling. It has to be better to cycle to school or work than it is – not all of that is around infrastructure.”

He says permeability is key: “The network won’t always mean putting in a cycle lane or cycle track. Back streets and opening up permeability is to be used as well as hard infrastructure.”

Sometimes it’s a matter of opening a gate or knocking a wall — he uses an example of a school where people were “literally next door to the school” but were 18mins away because there was a permanently blocked gate.

One of the routes the NTA is pushing forward with is the Dodder River cycle route, from Tallaght to the south eastern business district. It’s a “no brainier” he says. “To make it work we not only have to get the route along the Dodder to work, but also the access to and from it and the management of it works,” he says. “It will take a while to go through the planning process.”

MAIN OFF-ROAD ROUTES: Light Blue: Sutton to Sandycove / Dublin Bay | Red: Royal Canal
Orange: Quays and the park | Yellow: Grand Canal | Purple: River Dodder
Black: M50 and Port Tunnel shown as landmarks only

Another they are looking at is Fairview to North Strand and “at least to Talbot street if not down to the river [Liffey]”. He says even before cycle network review, the case for these routes us “robust – no matter which way the cookie crumbles, we are going to need these anyway.”

Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council has just finished public constulation for their local network review, and this will feed into what the NTA is doing.

Conor Geraghty, an assistant engineer with the council, highlights a greenway project they have worked on at the Slang River in south Dublin. He says “it was not monumental design” but it’s functional and gets people from Marley Park to Sandyford” and “nearly to Dun Laoghaire without cycling on a main road.”

These were not large scale works, but it included “knocking gaps in walls.” He says they were also looking at passive provision on quiet residential streets. Using one example he says: “It’s a good route to cycle on but you won’t need cycle lanes or cycle tracks.”
“Into the future we’re looking at a route between the Luas station in Windy Arbour, through UCD to the Dart at Booterstown – hopefully starting to design it this year,” says Geraghty. They are also looking at the larger routes. The N11 will be upgraded “on a rolling basis.”

Eoghan Madden, a senior engineer with Dublin City Council, says that with roads in the “middle of town are 1,000 plus years old” cycling offers “a space saver in the city centre.”
“It’s probably the handiest way to get around town, it’s certainly one of the fastest, and the infrastructure is less expensive than the corresponding cost for anything to do with motorised transport,” says Madden.

“At the minute we can take 25,000 vehicles per hour into the city centre and that’s it,” he says, pointing to the restricted canal crossings into the city, most of which they “can’t touch” because of their listed status. “If you take cycling as the most effective way to get around an urban area within 5 miles – there’s a huge potential for cycling. You need 3 meters to make a traffic lane – if you had a 3 meter wide cycle lane and enough people to populate it would beat cars in terms of capacity – around three times as many people by bike in the same space as cars,” Madden says.

“We’re coming to a ‘let’s get serious about this’ stage,” he adds.

He said the law has changed a lot since the council put in its first cycle lane outside the Four Courts 15 years ago. Back then a cycle lane turned the “whole road into a 24 hour clearway.”

“At the very start we had to protect the cyclists which were there – so the first focus we had on cycling was ‘where are the cyclists’ and strangely enough they were on the main routes. And the first focus was how we can get lanes out there to show people there are cyclists here – we got that eventually,” he says. In a clear reference to quality, or lack of it, he says “You might not be very happy with the way we got it but we got it.”

“Now we’re at the point where if you take a step back there’s a target of 10% cycling for the country, so they are looking to Dublin City to over double that – 20-25% — if we get 25% of people it means we go from 7,900 to 50,000,” he says.

“If we are trying to put 50,000 people on what we have already agreed are not optimal conditions crossing the bridges on the canals you’re trying to shove a quart into a pint pot, so we’re now looking to see other ways at crossing the canals – we’re at the cross roads with that – we’re just starting to do it.”

The council is eager to put cycling routes on the Royal and Grand Canal. Design work has been done on some sections and other sections are going out to tender for further design work.

Madden said this would be “hopefully for construction next year. Started next year – but not all sections,” and that the Grand Canal was obviously a priority given there’s so little to do to join up the cycle routes which end at Portobello and Inchicore, with little over 4km between them.

“You’re starting to come up to industrial volumes of cyclists and once you start reaching that you’re coming towards a tipping point – somewhere we’re going to start looking at dedicated cycling routes.”

He describes this as a route where a car has to stay behind a bicycle and a bicycle would have the right to the lane. “That’s difficult if you only have say 30 cyclists an hour – but if you have bunches of cyclists it can be self enforcing.”
Also see pages 18-19.

This article was originally published in the print edition of Cycling in Dublin in June 2012.

MORE: Cycle lane guidelines only adopted after major Dublin repairs
MORE: “We have to do” quays cycle route – senior Dublin engineer
MORE: “Little or no progress” with Dublin’s complex junctions or major one-way streets says report on cycling

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